Originally created 02/28/05

iPods: Dress it up, trick it out



SAN FRANCISCO - The world's favorite digital hip-hugger, though prized by the music-porting crowd, often feels incomplete. That's why there are add-ons. Lots of them.

Some iPod accessories are about converting the shiny little brick from a personal space-filler to a party animal. Others are simply about style.

Among the most useful is the Bose SoundDock ($300). It cuddles your iPod (full and mini) on the desktop so you can synchronize it with your Mac or PC, charge the player and enjoy the music through its own speakers, which can fill a room with stellar sound.

There's a small remote control as well.

For owners of the special black and red U2 edition iPod, Altec Lansing sells the InMotion audio system ($180) in the same color scheme. It also synchronizes, charges and plays music through built-in speakers and is powered by four AA batteries. You can find it only in Apple Computer stores.

If you want to take your iPod to a picnic and share the tunes with everyone, the iBoom ($150) will do the trick. Slip your iPod (full and mini) into this portable device from Netalog and it becomes a 20-watts-per-channel stereo boombox. The iBoom includes an FM radio with presets.

For the car, there are several FM transmitters that allow the music playing on the iPod to be heard through the car radio. Griffin Technology makes one of the more popular models, the iTrip ($30) and iTrip mini ($40). Simply plug an iTrip into the iPod's earphone jack, select an FM frequency to transmit to, and voila, your music is playing through the clearest station you can tune in.

If you want improved sound for your ears only, Simpl Acoustics makes a stellar amplifier called the A1 ($150) that boosts the sound level coming out of the iPod and into your earphones, or high-end headphones.

The iPod phenomena has since its inception been as much about style as substance. It's been prized for the hearty storage space and easy interaction with the iTunes software.

But the design also matters, and so it was a no brainer that fashionistas would start dressing up their iPods.

You can cloak yours in a rugged rubber "iSport" case from Monster for $20, or wrap it in a 3-pack variety of colored protective cases ($30) from Speck Products. Incase makes a nice line of leather folios for iPods, $30 for pink and $35 for black.

Even the new diminutive iPod Shuffle can be gussied up, thanks to New Hampshire designer and Mac fanatic Liz Hitchcock. She has lent the small flash memory player a few bangles and baubles to make it a wearable-about-the-neck fashion accessory.

Hitchcock's iPod Shuffle couture include little sheaths of purple beads, gray pearls, hematite and pink coral, priced from $35 to $75.

The stylish covers slide out of the way to allow access to the unit's click wheel controls, then revert back into a high-tech necklace.

"It lends itself so well to being worn. It's not big, it's not heavy," Hitchcock said of the.78-ounce Shuffle. She's opened up shop online at www.ipodjewelry.com.

Even videogame accessory maker Nyko Technologies is getting into the iPod act. The Los Angeles-based maker of air-conditioned wireless Xbox game controllers now makes a few novel devices for the iPod - the iTop and MoviePlayer.

Nyko's MoviePlayer plays video files stored on an iPod, which you slide into it, and shows them on a backlit 3.5-inch screen. It has built-in stereo speakers and converts video files into a proprietary format for use on the MoviePlayer.

The Nyko iTop could make life easier for joggers and those who use iPod. It's a small add-on that attaches to the top of the iPod. It has buttons that mimic the controls of the scroll and click wheel on the face of the iPod, making it easier to toggle through tracks while bouncing along a jogging trail or walking with a dog leash in one hand.

Both Nyko products are set to hit store shelves this year.